PICKENS COUNTY — It was standing room only at this month’s Pickens County Council meeting as residents turned up in droves to address the council and express their outrage at the potential of coal ash being dumped in the area.
“Two guesses on what I’m here to talk about,” Liberty Mayor Eric Boughman said as he took the podium during the public forum. “I’m here tonight of behalf of myself, my family and the citizens of Liberty that I represent.
“This landfill was previously approved as a Class 2 and now it appears to being slid in as a Class 3 — with no approval. I have no problem with a Class 2, but I have a big problem with a Class 3,” said Boughman.
The difference between the two is that Class 3 landfills are authorized to accept potentially hazardous materials, including coal ash.
“If the folks there in North Carolina, if they want a Class 3 landfill to dump coal ash in, then dig a hole and dump in over there. We don’t need it,” he continued. “Three components to coal ash are arsenic, mercury and lead and no matter what a company claims, the risk to human life far outweigh any benefit. And really, the only ones who do benefit is the utilities and the waste management.”
Boughman stressed that the effects will be more widespread than people realize.
“This isn’t just going to affect Liberty,” said Boughman. “It’s going to affect Pickens, Easley, Greenville … It’s going to affect every single one of us.”
Boughman’s sentiments were reiterated by council.
“I want you to understand that I’m going to fight this with every last breath I have,” said Councilman Neil Smith. “I don’t think this (coal ash) is good for Liberty, Easley, Pickens County nor the state of South Carolina. Look, they can keep it in North Carolina.”
Councilman Tom Ponder agreed.
“It’s a shame that we have to talk about legal action in a situation where if our state Department of Health and Environmental Controls (DHEC) had done the right thing to start with, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion tonight,” Ponder said. “Government ought to be simple: what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. But that’s not the case.”
Chair Jennifer Willis took another stance: that it’s against the county’s ordinances.
“It’s in violation of Pickens County’s Solid Waste Ordinance which says ‘we will not have a class 3 landfill in this county — period,’” she said. “Those are our rules and if we have to stand up and fight you with legal action, then we will. I wouldn’t want this in my backyard either, I’m raising three kids in this county. I am extremely irritated by this as you can tell. We are prepared to defend you.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.